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Ecotourism in Ghana: Undiscovered Kyabobo
While most travellers already think of Ghana as pretty far off their radars, anyone in Ghana knows it is possible to stray even farther from the beaten path. Right on the border of Togo, however, is Kyabobo National Park.
Kyabobo (pronounced CHAY-a-bobo)
Covering New Terrain
Kyabobo is Ghana’s newest national park, stretching over 360 square kilometres and contiguous with Fazao National Park, just across the border in Togo. Seen from a distance, Kyabobo’s Breast Mountains, so named for the distinctive shape of two adjacent hills, are at its front door. The rest of the park is surrounded by dry plains that rise into hilly terrain covered in semi-deciduous forest.
Nkwanta is the nearest town and the gateway to Kyabobo. About four kilometres from the park headquarters, it is on the main north-south road running from the Volta region to northern Ghana in the area between Lake Volta (http://www.voltaghanatours.travel/
Given the challenges of getting to Kyabobo, it is well worth staying a few days. Fortunately there are some good options for accommodation in the area. The Gateway and Kilimanjaro are good hotels in Nkwanta. At the park headquarters there are two nicely equipped guesthouses, each with a kitchen and bathroom, and camping sites. There are a number of other camps within the park, including a platform on top of a mountain ridge overlooking the shrine of the village of Kue.
Nature and Culture in Kyabobo
Everyone who enjoys the outdoors will find something exciting at Kyabobo, especially the network of trails for hiking, waterfalls to visit, biking, camping, canoeing, wildlife viewing and inner tubing on the Kue River. Hiking is the best way to explore the park. While there are some great trails only a couple of hours long or day hikes to waterfalls, others span the entire park and can take several days to complete involving some solitary camping. To get a good feel for the park, try the four-hour round-trip trek to Laboum Falls. You can extend it with another hour or two of hiking to the upper falls.
During any activity, animals to be spotted in the park include elephants, leopards, buffalo, waterbuck and several primate species. Unfortunately, due to the density of the forest and the steep hilly terrain, not everyone will be lucky enough to spy much large wildlife, although there are smaller more visible species bushbuck and duikers. You can also count on seeing butterflies and birds. Recent park surveys indicate the presence of at least 500 species of butterflies and 235 birds.
The symbol for the park is the rock hyrax, which is a large and very common rodent in Ghana, sometimes called a grass cutter. Roadside merchants often sell them… in the form of kabobs. In the wild, they are often seen on rocky outcroppings within the park.
For culture buffs, surrounding the park are a number of small communities called the Hanging Villages. They are said to resemble villages in the Himalayas that hug the sides of the mountains. Some even have shrines and hikes around the villages that guests can experience after visiting and drinking local gin with the chief. They’re accessible on foot or by bicycle. Travellers can even enjoy settling into village life with an overnight homestay.
An Ecotourism Future
The park represents a very interesting attempt to balance the goals of environmental protection, ecotourism and the preservation of endangered communities. It is an ongoing experiment with high stakes – the survival of the area’s natural and human environment.
Organisation at Kyabobo is still in its early stages, however, so be patient and persistent when seeking information. Right now, a new visitors’ area definitely serves as an essential part of the learning experience – you can at least count on finding brochures at the park entrance – and the proceeds help the surrounding communities.
Additionally, for the host communities, ecotourism means “improved livelihood activities” or jobs as guides, cooks and craftspeople. The income generated from the park is used for local development projects, like bringing electricity to nearby communities and providing materials for the construction of schools and toilets.
If you are looking for an active vacation to a naturally beautiful and undiscovered part of Ghana, and if you are interested in contributing to a vital and ongoing real-world learning experience, Kyabobo Park is well worth the dusty road trip it takes to get there and back.
The Travel Word is the online mouthpiece of the WHL Group and draws on a vast pool of ideas generated by local tour operators, partners, suppliers and more. Our blog - http://www.thetravelword.com - showcases responsible, sustainable and local travel. We are committed to inspiring mindful and independent travellers headed off the beaten path with local businesses making responsible and sustainable decisions about their destinations. Through anecdotes, articles, profiles, opinion pieces and news, our local voices aim to inform travellers about unique and ethical ways to experience a destination, travel responsibly and help sustain the distinctive qualities of a place.